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Wayne Central School Board members accused of ‘official misconduct’

A pair of Wayne Central School District Board of Education members are possibly going to be ousted over ‘official misconduct’ allegations.

Photo Courtesy: WHEC-TV (Rochester)

Details are still pretty murky at this point, though.

At last Thursday’s school board meeting, a last minute change was made to the agenda, according to the district. They introduced resolutions, which would remove Steve Gallaher and Dennis Landry.

Abbie Schmitt, a mother in the district, and PTO member told WHEC-TV that the whole thing was a surprise. “We found out about it minutes before the board meeting last Thursday,” she said. “It was an addendum to the agenda and no one was given a heads up whatsoever.”

The Board of Education posted ‘answers’ to several questions on its website outlining, or attempting to explain the circumstances. All of that information will be pasted at the bottom of this story, with all relevant resolutions.

The district says the last-minute change was due to continued review of attorney-client information; and that altogether – three resolutions were passed. Two allow the board to charge members and the third hires an external hearing officer for an upcoming hearing on the charges.

“We were all completely baffled,” admitted Schmitt to WHEC-TV. “They were just added to the board last year, elected last year, and we chose them to be our representatives and replace the incumbents.”

The two accused board members released the following statement:

“We rebut all accusations made by the Wayne Central Board of Education on Feb. 7, 2019 for official misconduct. We have done nothing wrong and we are shocked by the actions taken by the Board of Education. We will take any and all necessary actions to fight these baseless charges presented by the Board of Education, including appealing to the NYS Commissioner of Education. We would like to thank the public for their support and look forward to clearing our names and getting back to the work that we should be doing, serving the community, teachers and staff and most importantly, the students of Wayne Central. “

School Board President Tim Reynolds has declined multiple media requests for comment. Superintendent Mathis Calvin pointed media to a statement on Wayne’s website, which reads as follows:

“The Wayne CSD Board of Education adheres to its protocols, policies and procedures as outlined in its handbook, New York State School Boards Associations training protocols and District policies. The Board is committed to ensuring that all members follow through with its expectations and adhere to New York State laws.

Out of concern for the district and in an effort to maintain its integrity while fulfilling its State specified duties, the Board of Education has agreed to enter into this process and has appointed an external hearing officer to assist us with this matter.

Ensuring that this process is followed through with integrity and transparency is of the utmost importance to the Board as we continue to work on behalf of our students, staff and community. Questions and answers pertaining to the Feb. 7 Board of Education meeting are available by clicking here.”

No date has been set yet for a hearing.


Q1: Does the Board have an official statement regarding this matter?

A1: The Wayne CSD Board of Education adheres to its protocols, policies and procedures as outlined in its handbook, New York State School Boards Associations training protocols and District policies.

The Board is committed to ensuring that all members follow through with its expectations and adhere to New York State laws.

Out of concern for the district and in an effort to maintain its integrity while fulfilling its State specified duties, the Board of Education has agreed to enter into this process and has appointed an external hearing officer to assist us with this matter.

Ensuring that this process is followed through with integrity and transparency is of the utmost importance to the Board as we continue to work on behalf of our students, staff and community.


Q2: What were the resolutions that were voted on by the Board of Education?

RESOLUTION TO APPROVE REMOVAL CHARGES

WHEREAS, New York Education Law section 1709(18) states that a board of education shall have the power and duty to remove any board member for official misconduct; and

WHEREAS, removal of a board member requires that the member be served with a written copy of all charges made of the misconduct at least ten days prior to the time appointed for a hearing on the matter, and that he be allowed a full and fair opportunity to refute such charges before removal; and

WHEREAS, members of the Board of Education of the Wayne Central School District (the “Board”) have met with legal counsel and conferred about the initiation of a removal proceeding for Dennis Landry for official misconduct; and

WHEREAS, members of the Board have reviewed the proposed charges set forth in a Notice of Charges for Mr. Landry and seek to approve the same for purposes of a removal proceeding pursuant to New York Education Law section 1709(18);

NOW, THEREFORE be it resolved as follows:

1. The Board of Education hereby approves the above referenced proposed charges set forth in the Notice of Charges against Mr. Landry for removal proceeding.

2. The Board of Education hereby directs and authorizes the President of the Board of Education and school attorneys Ferrara Fiorenza PC to serve the Notice of Charges on Mr. Landry at least ten (10) days prior to the hearing date, and to take all other steps necessary to effectuate the prosecution of the removal proceeding.

3. This resolution shall take effect immediately.

Dated: February 7, 2019


RESOLUTION TO APPROVE REMOVAL CHARGES

WHEREAS, New York Education Law section 1709(18) states that a board of education shall have the power and duty to remove any board member for official misconduct; and

WHEREAS, removal of a board member requires that the member be served with a written copy of all charges made of the misconduct at least ten days prior to the time appointed for a hearing on the matter, and that he be allowed a full and fair opportunity to refute such charges before removal; and

WHEREAS, members of the Board of Education of the Wayne Central School District (the “Board”) have met with legal counsel and conferred about the initiation of a removal proceeding for Steve Gallaher for official misconduct; and

WHEREAS, members of the Board have reviewed the proposed charges set forth in a Notice of Charges for Mr. Gallaher and seek to approve the same for purposes of a removal proceeding pursuant to New York Education Law section 1709(18);

NOW, THEREFORE be it resolved as follows:

1. The Board of Education hereby approves the above referenced proposed charges set forth in the Notice of Charges against Mr. Gallaher for removal proceeding.

2. The Board of Education hereby directs and authorizes the President of the Board of Education and school attorneys Ferrara Fiorenza PC to serve the Notice of Charges on Mr. Gallaher at least ten (10) days prior to the hearing date, and to take all other steps necessary to effectuate the prosecution of the removal proceeding.

3. This resolution shall take effect immediately.

Dated: February 7, 2019


RESOLUTION TO APPOINT HEARING OFFICER

WHEREAS, New York Education Law section 1709(18) states that a board of education shall have the power and duty to remove any board member for official misconduct; and

WHEREAS, removal of a board member requires that the member be served with a written copy of all charges made of the misconduct at least ten days prior to the time appointed for a hearing on the matter, and that he be allowed a full and fair opportunity to refute such charges before removal; and

WHEREAS, the Board of Education of the Wayne Central School District (the “Board’) has voted to initiate removal proceedings for one or more of its members; and

WHEREAS, the Board seeks to appoint an impartial hearing officer to promote a full and fair hearing, and to make findings of facts and recommendations to the Board; and

WHEREAS, the Board has reviewed the qualifications of a hearing officer and considered his rates to be reasonable and therefore seeks to appoint the hearing officer for the purposes outlined herein;

NOW, THEREFORE be it resolved as follows:

1. The Board hereby appoints Louis N. Kash, Esq. as the hearing officer to expeditiously preside over the hearings to be conducted pursuant to New York Education Law section 1709(18), and to prepare findings of fact and recommendations as to respective penalties, and to report such findings and recommendations to the Board of Education at the conclusion of the hearings.

2. The Board approves the compensation for Mr. Kash to perform these duties and funds exist in the 2018-2019 School District budget to provide for such compensation.

3. The Board authorizes the Superintendent of Schools to execute an agreement for the professional services of the hearing officer in a form approved by the School District’s attorneys.

4. The Board of Education authorizes the Superintendent of Schools and school attorneys to make all other necessary arrangements for the hearings on the charges that were discussed with legal counsel, to be conducted in accordance with the Education Law and the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.

5. It is hereby directed that these hearings should move forward as expeditiously as possible.

6. This resolution shall take effect immediately.

Dated: February 7, 2019


Q3: Is it true that the Board of Education recently decided to remove several of its members?

A3: No, the Board of Education did not recently decide to remove several of its members. However, the Board did pass several resolutions which do allow the Board to bring charges against two of its members and have them heard before an external hearing officer. Once the charges are heard by an external hearing officer, he will provide the Board with a written opinion setting forth his findings of fact and recommendation regarding whether or not removal is warranted.

Again, it is important to point out, the Board of Education has not made any determination as to whether it will remove any of its Board members. The resolutions only authorize the Board to: bring forth charges against two of its board members, appoint an external hearing officer and to move forward with a hearing on this matter.


Q4: What are the charges that are being issued to the Board of Education members who are involved with this matter?

A4: In order to receive information regarding the charges, members of the public are welcome to make a formal request pursuant the New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).

The FOIL form is located on our website at the following link:

https://www.waynecsd.org/pdf//District/Documents/FOIL%20Request%20Form.pdf


Q5: Does the Board have a right to remove Board members?

A5: A school board does have the legal right to remove any of its members for “official misconduct,” which is misconduct related to a board member’s official duties and responsibilities. NYSED Law 1709 (18).


Q6: May a school board member be removed from office?

A6: A board member may be removed from office in one or two ways, either by the Commissioner of Education or the school board. A school board’s authority to remove one of its members from office is separate and distinct from the commissioner’s authority to remove a board member.


Q7: Can school board members who are removed appeal this decision?

A7: Yes. A board’s decision to remove a school board member from office may be appealed to the Commissioner of Education.


Q8: Why didn’t the Board list the removal matter on its agenda?

A8: The Board did not list this matter on its agenda because it was still reviewing attorney-client information associated with this concern prior to its last meeting.


Q9: When is the hearing and will the public be allowed at the hearing?

A9: No date has been set at this time for the hearing. In the near future a date will be provided.

With regard to public attendance at the hearing, in an effort to ensure transparency, the Board has decided that this matter will be held in a public setting. Community members will be allowed to attend this hearing.


Q10: How can you put this out with no explanation. How do I get answers to my questions?

A10: All questions received from the community along with answers are being placed on the district’s website.


 

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